Edwin Stratford (1833-1899)

Edwin StratfordBy Guy L. Black.

Edwin Stratford, son of George and Eliza Barwell Stratford, was born February 6, 1833, at All Saints Parish, Maldon, Essex, England.  He was the oldest of ten children, all but one of whom was born in Maldon.

George was a cabinetmaker, and Eliza worked making dresses and running a clothing school for young ladies.  Through his industry, George was able to amass considerable property during his lifetime, despite starting life as an impoverished “inmate of a workhouse.”

Edwin’s hometown, Maldon, was settled by East Saxons in the fifth century, and its name means “meeting place on the hill.”  Vikings attacked the town in 924 A.D., but were rebuffed.  However, in 991 A.D., the Danish invaders defeated the native defenders and extracted tribute in the Battle of Maldon.  The battle inspired an epic poem by the same name.  Maldon “is located approximately thirty miles from London. The site, near the Blackwater Estuary, was probably a late Roman port.”

As a boy, Edwin’s education initially consisted of attending a Sunday school run by the WesleyanChurch.  Edwin’s parents were members of the WesleyanChurch, and Edwin attended services there with his parents.

But, his “parents were not content for him to have a spiritual education only, so they sent him to a British school for a time, and later to ‘one of a higher order.’”  The “higher order” school was run by a Mr. Carter.  Edwin stated that he made rapid progress with Mr. Carter in the subject of geography.

Edwin’s parents took him out of Mr. Carter’s school, and he discontinued his formal education “for a season” when the family moved to London.  However, after living in London for only a few months, Edwin was sent back to Maldon to live with his grandmother.  Presumably, he resumed his schooling when he returned to Maldon.

Sometime thereafter, Edwin’s parents moved to Raleigh, which was only seven miles from Maldon, and Edwin left his grandmother and moved back in with his parents.

Later, when his parents left Raleigh and moved back to Maldon, Edwin went to work for his uncle, Abraham, as a ship builder.  He and Uncle Abraham had an unspecified disagreement, and Edwin left his uncle’s employ after only a few months.

After leaving his uncle, Edwin’s family moved back to London, where Edwin worked at two different jobs.  He began working as a newspaper boy, but found the workplace to be “bad.”  After finding a second job, his first employer sent a housekeeper to offer Edwin money, or a “bribe,” as Edwin described it, to come back to work.  Edwin was also promised that he would be taught the trade of steel plate engraving if he would return.  But Edwin would not be swayed to return, as he found his new employment much more satisfactory.

But, once again, the family moved back to Maldon, and Edwin followed, leaving his job again.  Once back in Maldon, Edwin “secured employment in his Uncle James’ gardens, and it was then he decided to become a gardener.”

As a young boy, Edwin’s father had apprenticed for a gardener in Maldon named “Range” after leaving the workhouse.  Edwin took after his father, and developed a lifelong interest in gardening.  “A solace of his life was the culture and care of flowers and gardening. . . .  He loved flowers and was as good a judge of well grown plant[s] as one often sees.  Much of his time in later years was spent in watching his flowers grow and admiring their beauty, while he enjoyed their fragrance.”

After working with Uncle James for a while, Edwin found that he did not like his uncle’s behavior, and instead went to work at a bank part time.  To fill up the rest of his time, he found a job working for a grocer.  Thereafter, he left the bank and went to work for a Mr. Wilmhurst, where he remained until he converted to Mormonism in 1851.

Although he had been raised a Wesleyan, and was forced to attend their services as a child, especially when he lived with his grandmother, his parents eventually left that church.  Instead of attending church services most Sundays, young Edwin roamed around in the fields or went swimming at the beaches near Maldon.

Edwin gradually found himself rejecting all religious sects, not believing any of them.  He also questioned whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  However, during salient moments he would pray; at times he “felt to acknowledge that He [Jesus Christ] was the Son of God.”  In later years, when Edwin looked back on those moments of insight, he felt that the Lord had been with him all his lifetime, and had been preparing him to receive the Gospel.  Edwin would still occasionally attend a Wesleyan service, and would sometimes become caught up in the church’s activities.  However, he would always become indifferent to their teachings again after a time.  At one point, he thought of accepting the religion of the “Brethren of Freedom of Thought.”

He was thus in a condition of searching a religious faith, when, on March 8, 1851, news spread through the town of Maldon that a young man professing to be a servant of God had come to town to preach.  Edwin wanted to hear what the young man had to say, but “more from curiosity than love of truth.”

At first, the young preacher, Elder Charles W. Penrose, could not find a place to preach, so he resorted to distributing pamphlets to whomever would accept them.  He left one with Edwin’s Grandma Barwell and one with Edwin’s parents.

Initially, no one in Edwin’s family took much notice of the pamphlets.  However, Elder Penrose was tenacious.  When Edwin returned from work one evening, he found Elder Penrose discussing Mormonism with Edwin’s father.  Edwin listened attentively to the discussion, and marveled at the unusual doctrines that he had never heard before.  He told his mother, later that evening, that he felt that the Mormon Church was the church for him.

Edwin described his experiences as he contemplated Mormonism that first evening.  He said, “When I retired to rest, I prayed that I might know of the truth of the word; if it was true, that I might be lead to embrace it; if false that I might be able to reject it.”  No immediate answer to the prayer was forthcoming.

The following Sunday, Elder Penrose was able to procure a meeting room in which he could preach the gospel, and Edwin and some of his relatives attended.  Some of Edwin’s relatives were persuaded to join the Church.  By early April, Edwin’s Aunt Lutitia Barwell had been baptized.  On April 17, 1851, Edwin’s mother and grandmother were also baptized.

But Edwin was not yet ready to embrace the Gospel.  He attended church meetings and began reading pamphlets, including “The Absurdities of Immaterialism,” and “The First Great Cause,” by Orson Pratt.  He also read part of the Book of Mormon.  He reached the conclusion that the Church was of God, but still had lingering concerns about certain principles of the Gospel.  He mentioned his concerns to Elder Penrose, who responded by reciting part of 1 Kings 18:21, “How long halt ye between two opinions?  If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”

Edwin agreed to be baptized, despite his uncertainty; and before the baptism took place he “broke through that indetermination” and fully accepted the Gospel.  Early in the morning of May 9, 1851, Elder Penrose baptized Edwin a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a place called The Stakes, about one mile outside Maldon.  Edwin said of the experience, “When I came away from baptism I felt even then, before confirmation that I knew the work was true.  In the evening, I was confirmed by Elder Penrose.  After leaving him, I rejoiced greatly in the Spirit of God.  I realized the promise made to me before baptism, that I should know the work was true.  I knew it . . . .”

Apparently, enough souls had joined the Church in Maldon that it was necessary to organize a unit of the Church in the town.  On May 28, 1851, Elder William Speakman arrived in Maldon from London, “and in the evening the Maldon Branch was organized, consisting of ten members.”  Elder Penrose was appointed Branch President and Elder Speakman and Elder Penrose confirmed the Aaronic Priesthood on Edwin, and ordained him a Priest.

Edwin remembered some of the promises made to him through Elder Speakman during the ordination.  Edwin said, “While his hands were on my head he said the conviction of the truth should continually rest upon me.  Elder Penrose also prophesied concerning me and said I should go to Zion and come back again to the Nations of the Earth.”

As a conference of the church was planned in London, Edwin went to London on May 30, 1851.  His father, George, also went to London the following day.  They jointly attended the conference on Sunday, June 1, 1851.  During the conference’s evening meeting they were able to listen to Apostle John Taylor testify regarding the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and tell how he was with the prophet in Carthage, and was himself shot four times, but survived.

On Monday, June 2, 1851, Edwin’s father, George, was baptized.  That same afternoon, he and his father were able to attend a meeting in the Freemason’s Hall, where they listened to talks by four apostles:  John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin L. Richards.

On Tuesday, Edwin and his father toured the Great Exhibition.  “The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London was conceived to symbolize the industrial, military and economic superiority of Great Britain.  Just representing the feats of Britain itself would have excluded many of the technological achievements pioneered by the British in its many colonies and protectorates, so it was decided to make the exhibit truly international with invitations being extended to almost all of the colonized world.  The British also felt that it was important to show their achievements right alongside those of ‘less civilized’ countries.  The prevailing attitude in England at the time was ripe for the somewhat arrogant parading of accomplishments.  Many felt secure, economically and politically, and Queen Victoria was eager to reinforce the feeling of contentment with her reign.”

Edwin described his marvel at the scope and grandeur of the exhibition.  He said, “It was a grand and glorious sight to behold the works of art collected from many nations of the earth.  In fact, I never saw anything to equal [it].  One of the grandest sights was obtained by standing on the gallery at the further end of the building, and looking upon the immense concourse of people who were passing up the grand aisle.  These, with the works of art, combined to make it a glorious sight. . . .  The building itself was well worthy of admiration.  It was . . . 1851 feet long and 409 feet wide, besides a projection on the north side 48 feet wide and 936 feet long; the space enclosed covering about nineteen acres. . . .  The frontage afforded for the exhibition of goods was more than ten miles in extent.”

After returning to Maldon from the conference and exhibition, Edwin began a series of part-time preaching excursions to area towns.  He was also influential in helping other members of his family accept the Gospel.  Two of Edwin’s sisters, Julia and Lucetta, were baptized, on June 12th and July 1st, 1851, respectively.

On one occasion, April 9, 1852, during a preaching excursion, Edwin and several other Saints were harassed and pelted with stones.  On the same occasion, detractors removed pins from the wagon wheels the Saints used for transportation.  Edwin and his companions narrowly escaped serious injury.  Edwin attributed being saved from injury to God’s providence.

On June 19, 1852, Edwin was ordained an Elder.  That same day, Elder Martin Slack, President of the Essex Conference of the Church, sent a note to Edwin requesting that Edwin serve full-time as a missionary.  Within twenty-six hours of receiving the note, Edwin had washed his clothing, obtained permission from his employer to quit work, and left home to begin his missionary work.  While acknowledging that he left on very short notice, Edwin said, “I felt that the Lord had called me, and was submissive to His will. . . .  I went forth in faith, believing in the promises of the Lord.”  Edwin was nineteen years old.

For more than two years thereafter, he served full time as a missionary, walking over six thousand miles during his mission, baptizing twenty-one persons and presiding over five branches of the Church in four counties in England (Essex, Suffolk, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire).

During his years as a missionary, Edwin had the opportunity associate with a young lady named Marianna Crabb.  She accompanied him on several trips, and they ate and went on a walk in the park together.  But if he exhibited any early romantic interest in Ms. Crabb, Edwin concealed those feelings from his journal.  He spoke of her as he did any other member of the Church.

Later, after he had completed his mission, his true feelings for Ms. Crabb surfaced.  On the day after Christmas, December 26, 1855, he married Marianna Crabb of Danbury, Essex, England.  The following February 14th they embarked on the sailing vessel, “Caravan,” for the United States, to join the Saints in Utah.  After a six-week ocean trip they landed in New York, March 27, 1856.

Upon landing in America, Edwin initially found work in Tarrytown, a village near New York City. He and his family lived there until 1857, when they moved to Iowa City, Iowa.  But before moving from Tarrytown, Marianna gave birth to the couple’s first child, Edwin Alfred Stratford, on October 17, 1856.

In Iowa, Edwin found employment chopping wood.  That part of Iowa was then frontier country and covered with timber.  Hard times were their lot, and their staff of life was bread made of shorts.  Shorts were the waste products from flour mills, which were usually used as cattle feed.  However, today we consider these wastes a health food, called wheat bran.

John Taylor presided over the branch of the church in Iowa.  Edwin served as his counselor.  When President Taylor left for Utah, Edwin became branch president.

While in Iowa, the family grew with the addition of two more children, Eliza Ann Stratford, born January 23, 1859, and Jesse George Stratford, born May 4, 1861.  Eventually, Edwin and his wife would have a total of nine natural children, in addition to another young woman, Mary Ann Wesson, who they raised as their own.

 In May, 1861, Edwin and Marianna, and their three children left Iowa for Utah.  By then, Edwin’s father and family had arrived from England, and the two families jointly set out for Utah.

When the group reached Florence (now Omaha), Nebraska, Edwin’s father died (June 23, 1861) of cholera, leaving Edwin entirely in charge of his mother, brothers, and sisters.  Despite their grief, they buried George Stratford in Florence, then joined the Homer Duncan Company of pioneers and left Florence on June 25, 1861.  Their outfit consisted of a wagon, two oxen named Tom and Jerry, and a yoke of cows.

They arrived in Salt Lake City on September 15, 1861, and soon moved to Farmington where they lived until the spring of 1864.  They then moved to Providence, CacheCounty.  Edwin taught school at Millville, took care of his farm, and did other work incident to building a home in a new country.  He was quite expert at making molasses from sugar cane.  All grain was cut with a cradle and hay with a scythe at that time, and the raking and binding was done by hand.  Edwin often carried a sack of wheat on his back to the mill at Logan, a distance of two miles.

In 1871, Edwin’s old friend, Charles W. Penrose, became editor-in-chief of The Ogden Junction newspaper.  In September, 1872, Charles W. Penrose’s involvement in the newspaper expanded significantly, and the paper was also expanded to become a seven-column issue.  It was about that same time, in the fall of 1872, that Edwin disposed of his log cabin, and all that he had accumulated in Providence, and moved to Ogden to begin working for Charles W. Penrose as manager of the newspaper.

Edwin worked as manager of the newspaper until 1874, when he secured employment with M.D. Hammond in an implement business.  This business was subsequently taken over by George A. Lowe Company, and Edwin became manager.    Edwin left George A. Lowe in 1882, and founded his own furniture business, E. Stratford and Sons, with a small capital but a long list of friends.  He managed this business until he was stricken with illness that took his life.

Edwin’s son spoke at a family reunion and related a story about Edwin’s honesty in business.  He said, “One day, I went with father, to pay for some merchandise.  Father took the gold coins, which was the money we used at that time, and piled them on the counter.  The man behind the counter put the money in the cash box without counting it.  Father said “You’d better count that money.”  The man answered, “Brother Stratford if you say it is the right amount, I know that it is.  I can trust you with anything.”

In 1877, Edwin was made a high priest and set apart as First Counselor to Bishop Nils C. Flygare of the Ogden Fourth Ward, which at that time embraced Ogden’s entire north bench.

Bishop Flygare was a carpenter who, on Saturday, August 14, 1880, was working on the construction of a Co-op building on the corner of Main Streetand Fourth Street in Ogden.  The Bishop’s young son, Julian, was helping his father.  All of the workmen had packed up for the evening, and Julian and some other boys were playing on roped-pulled elevators.  In an unfortunate accident, young Julian was crushed underneath one of the elevator cages.  Edwin had the unenviable task of conducting the funeral.

In 1883, Bishop Flygare was called to the stake presidency, and Edwin was made bishop of the Fourth Ward, being set apart by President John Taylor—his intimate friend since the early days in Iowa City.  In 1887, the ward was divided, and T.J. Stevens, Edwin’s counselor, was made bishop of the south half of the east bench.  Edwin retained his calling as bishop of the north half, which position he held at the time of his death.

Edwin was also active in civic affairs.  In 1879 he was elected Councilor to Ogden Mayor Lester J. Herrick.  In March, 1881, after the Edmunds Tucker Act disqualified all of the elected aldermen because they were polygamists, Edwin, being monogamous, was appointed as a replacement.  He was later reelected for two more terms.

In 1885, Edwin ran for a seat in the Utah Territorial House of Representatives from WeberCounty.  He won election and served one term on the 27th Territorial Legislature.

Edwin also served as Ogden City Assessor and Collector for one term.  He enjoyed the distinction of being the first incumbent of that office to collect all of the taxes owed the City.  He also made assessments that had never been made before, and brought to the office a degree of business ability that benefited the city finances.

In 1883, a Mr. John Beck, who had three deaf children, and Mr. William Wood, who had a deaf daughter, convinced the Territorial legislature to appropriate funds to open a school to educate such children.  A small school opened August 26, 1884, under the management of the University of Utah, in a basement room at the University.

In 1888, a law was passed providing for the free education of the deaf, and a separate building was erected on University grounds for that purpose.  In April, 1894, the school held its first commencement exercises.

Then, in the winter of 1895, after Utah achieved statehood, the legislature voted to move the school to WeberCounty and expand its mission to include services for the blind.  Edwin, who was appointed by the Governor to serve as one of the school trustees, voiced his desire that the legislature locate the school on the site of a former military academy in Ogden.  The State bought and refurbished the military academy and located the school for the deaf on the site.

By July of 1896, although reconstruction had not yet begun, the school trustees began advertising for a teacher for the blind and began looking for blind pupils who could benefit from the new school.

In August, the task of paying for the land and hiring and paying contractors began in earnest.  Edwin and the other trustees were so effective in managing the transition that within a short time, on September 10, 1896, the school opened for business.

The following February, 1897, Utah Governor Wells and members of the assigned legislative committee inspected the new school.  “They came expecting to visit an infant industry, so to speak, in a foundling condition, but they remained to visit an Institution that takes a child denied the requisites of a competent human and converts it into a self-supporting, useful citizen.  No wonder that what they saw and heard made the committee marvel as to the degree of efficiency the institution had reached.”

Edwin, as President of the Board of Trustees was sorely missed two years later when he died.  The remaining members of the board published their condolences and lamented “the loss of a faithful member, ever ready to act his part in furthering the welfare and prosperity of the institutions under our care; who was a leading citizen, an active business man, a friend dear to all, a man whose life was a standard of emulation to his fellows.”

Edwin also served as Superintendent of the Church’s Deaf-Mute Sunday School beginning in October, 1896.  Under his leadership, the Sunday School also organized religious instruction for the blind.

In the early days of Utah’s history, when there was much strife between Mormons and anti-Mormons, Edwin was a staunch leader in the People’s Party; and when the new era was ushered in he embraced Republicanism.  He helped to establish its principles in the state.

Edwin’s son described his father as “a man of character.  His religious convictions were so strong that they were knowledge to him, having passed the realm of belief, and his whole life was controlled by his creed.  He was a strong man, honest and fearless in his actions, and true to his friends.  His manner was brusque, even blunt at times, but he performed his duty as he saw it.

“His ecclesiastical position and character placed him high in the councils of the church.  He was one of the strong, reliable men of WeberCounty and was frequently consulted by the higher church officials.

“He was not only responsible for the condition of his ward, but helped to carry the burden of establishing and shaping the destiny of his county and state.  When the troublesome times were upon the church, under the Edmunds-Tucker Act, he went east with a delegation of Mormon businessmen to try to assuage the fury of the storm.  His life was not measured by years, but by accomplishments.”

Edwin died on Sunday morning, October 8, 1899, at the age of sixty-six years.  At his side were his wife and children.  He had suffered for two years, during which time his wife was his constant nurse and companion.[i]

[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources:  Birth Certificate:  Register of Baptisms, Chelmsford Wesleyan Chapel on Springfield Lane, Springfield, Essex from 1815-1836, TNA Reference RG4, Piece 95, Folio 33, Registration Town: Chelmsford, Essex, England.  Located at BmdRegisters.co.uk on October 26, 2007.  Marriage Record:  Edwin Stratford-Marianna Crabb marriage, 26 December 1855, Register Office (Chelmsford District, Essex County), England.  Certificate supplied September 30, 2007 by General Register Office, England, entry 177 for 1853.  Copy in the possession of Guy L. Black.  Death Certificate: Edwin Stratford, Death Certificate, Local File No. 12-1899 (October 8, 1899), Weber-Morgan District Health Department, Ogden, Utah.  Grave Location and Cemetery Directions:  Grave locations for Edwin Stratford and Marianna Crabb are:  Annex 17-16-1E and 2E in the Ogden City Cemetery.  The cemetery is located on north Side of 20th Street in Ogden, Utah, and runs west to east from Adams Avenue to Monroe Blvd.  The cemetery office is at 1875 Monroe Blvd (northeast corner of the cemetery).  Once inside the cemetery look for the corner of Martin St. and 6th Ave.  The gravesites are located slightly southeast of that street corner.  See <ims.ogdencity.com/cemetery/> for more information and a cemetery map.  Obituaries:  “Gone to His Rest,” Ogden Standard, October 9, 1899, p. 1; “The Stratford Funeral,” Ogden Standard, October 9, 1899, p. 4; “The Funeral Tomorrow,” Ogden Standard, October 10, 1899, p. 5; “Funeral Services,” Ogden Standard, October 11, 1899, p. 8; “Laid to Rest,” Ogden Standard, October 12, 1899; “Resolutions of Respect and Condolence,” Ogden Standard, October 30, 1899, p. 5.